Browsing "Book Reviews"
Dec 21, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA by Matthew Reilly

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Reilly’s work for quite some time, ever since a friend introduced me to Ice Station. One of my favourite things is the speed the story moves at, and how unbelievably-believable everything is.

The Great Zoo of China is no exception – it’s an action packed beast, and I loved the contents of the zoo. Having a female protagonist was simply fantastic, and my patchy memory tells me it’s the first time he’s done this – but I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

I’m quite a fan of how he continually works in fantastic elements in a way that’s completely believable and it’s a testament to the time and effort he spends on researching each of his books.

While this isn’t one of my favourites of his, it’s definitely just as high quality as the rest of his work, and absolutely worth a read.

Purchase: Book Depository | Booktopia

Dec 18, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE FELL SWORD by Miles Cameron

The Fell Sword picks up where The Red Knight finishes, with the Captain leading his men on to their next job. It was just as good a read as The Red Knight – where The Red Knight was non-stop drama and action, The Fell Sword has a bit more character development and world building.

I really liked being able to see more of what was happening in other places, especially in the Wild, and being able to see another kingdom described really enhanced the world building – it stopped being a place mentioned in passing and became a real thing. Having a wider range of characters telling their parts was great for me – there were quite a few new faces to get to know and I’m quite fond of most of them.

There was also a lot of time spent laying the foundations for the next book – the Fell Sword of the title barely rates a mention in this book, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing how it all pans out, especially in relation to Duchess Ghause’s role, and newcomer Morgan. I still love how magic, religion and “reality” are mixed in this series, and how it’s all being used in a war setting. It’s perhaps one of the best uses of magic that I’ve seen in quite some time.

If you enjoyed The Red Knight, and don’t mind taking a slower trip through this book, you’re going to really enjoy it. If you haven’t read either yet, grab The Red Knight and settle in for a long and wonderful ride.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

Dec 14, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE BREWER’S TALE by Karen Brooks

What a book. I often find with historical fiction that it’s either a poorly disguised romance novel set however long ago, an unrealistic rendition of the era or a bad ass depiction of life in that era. The Brewer’s Tale is absolutely the latter.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale.

This book is set in an era when women were property of their men-folk, so a young unmarried woman setting up her own business, and doing incredibly well at it, is enough to turn everything on its ear. Karen Brooks has done a fantastic job of creating a strong, beautifully balanced female character that manages to do everything she needs to, overcome every obstacle, without leaving the bounds of what one could realistically expect to be achieved in that era.

Anneke Sheldrake is a wonderful character – she’s far from perfect, but that’s what makes her so appealing. The struggles she faces are as understandable now as they would have been then, even if the actual situations vary slightly. I can’t remember the last time there was a good ducking in the river, for example, but the bias and prejudice leading up to that is just as alive today.

I also appreciated the way the romance was woven through the book – I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, or ones that rely on romance too heavily to move everything forward, but this had the perfect balance the entire way through.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in history, and enjoys adventure, mystery, and a damn good story.

Purchase: Booktopia | Amazon

I received a copy of this book from Goodread’s First Reads.

Dec 7, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: LIFE IN OUTER SPACE by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

This book. I’m not even sure where to start.

Life in Outer Space isn’t just a young adult novel about the Geeky Guy that falls in love with the Cool Girl. It’s about friendship and navigating high school and growing up and relationships and it’s all packaged in a very funny, very brilliant book.

I found the whole thing really relatable, even though I’m not a teenage boy. A lot of the things Sam is dealing with – being the “uncool” kid, working out how boy-girl relationships work (as friends and more), parents being weird around each other – is just so believable from beginning to end. We’ve all been there, we’ve all wondered if we’re ever going to be one of the popular people, or if our parents are slowly losing the plot.

On top of all that, Sam isn’t just a geek, he’s a believable geek. The whole book is peppered with movie/book/gaming quotes and references, and none of it feels forced or thrown in to earn points.

We don’t get to see much of Sam’s friends outside of his perceptions of them, but we do still get a great picture of who they are and how they’re reacting to everything going on.

There was nothing that I don’t love about this book, apart from the fact that it can’t go on forever. As with Cinnamon Girl, it’s a perfect snapshot of common situations faced by everyone, whether they’re currently in high school or reminiscing about their own awkward teenage years.

Purchase: Booktopia | Amazon

Dec 4, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CITY OF DRAGONS by Robin Hobb

City of Dragons is book 3 in the Rain Wilds Chronicles, and not only continues the journey to Kelsingra, but shows us quite a few things referenced in the first couple of books.

I enjoyed this one a little better than Dragon Haven and while it’s still not quite at the level of previous series, it’s a lot more interesting than the previous book. I loved the inclusion of Tintaglia, and seeing more of what’s happening outside of the river and Kelsingra – particularly with Chalced and Bingtown.

It was fantastic seeing Malta and Reyn again too, and while we don’t get to watch them grow as such, seeing their character growth through their actions in this book was great.

The book does end quite abruptly, that was a bit frustrating, but I’ve no doubt that the final book will wrap everything up nicely, and I enjoyed being able to see the different arcs develop.

The only thing I found jarring was Alise – her behaviour towards the other keepers with regard to Kelsingra being looted felt quite out of character. She went from being excited about exploring, to panicking that the city would be looted before she could document everything, but there was nothing in any other part of the book to suggest it was more than an irrational fear. We know from previous books (the Liveship Traders series in particular) that the Rain Wilders excavate and sell Elderling treasures, but the sudden change in behaviour did throw me off a bit.

It’s still a very solid novel though, and I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

Nov 30, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments


This might just be the best book I’ve read this year. It is fun, it is quirky, and it captures all of the thoughts and feelings of leaving school/changing life stages perfectly.

All while the world is ending.

Set in a quiet little country town in Australia, everything is turned on its ear when a youtube video predicting that Eden Valley is where the world is going to end, goes viral. While trying to manage all the people that turn up to celebrate the end of the world, Alba is also trying to come to terms with school finishing, her friends making plans to move away, and trying to decide what to do with the rest of her life. While this is obviously referring to leaving high school, the same thoughts and uncertainty applies to any major life change, making the whole book appealing no matter where you’re at.

I absolutely loved Alba, it was so easy to identify with her thoughts and feelings. She’s fun and sassy and has no problems saying what’s on her mind – for the most part. It was really refreshing to come across a female character with confidence, and such a matter-of-fact attitude about herself. I liked that her insecurities weren’t about her appearance, but her skills or losing touch with her friends. There really needs to be more characters like this out there.

I also loved how her comic character – Cinnamon Girl – reflected her inner turmoil as she works through everything going on. That was a really nice touch.

The rest of the cast are also brilliant, and it’s fun getting to know them as the story progresses. The only character I never quite warmed to was Dan – and I really don’t think I’m supposed to.

The romance element was introduced and portrayed incredibly well – it’s not a standard soppy love triangle, it’s funny and real and a delight to watch develop.

I cannot recommend this book enough, regardless of where you’re at on your own journey. There is something for everyone, and it’s just such a fantastic book.

Purchase: BookWorld | Amazon

Nov 24, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE SILENT DEAL by Levi Stack

When Viktor and Romulus, two peasant boys, dig into their town’s strange past, they awaken the wrath of a mysterious overlord. As the blood brothers struggle to survive, their search for answers takes them through gambling parlors, fortune-teller dens, and moonlit forests full of monsters and men alike. But even with the help of their friends, can they escape the dark experiments that their foe is creating in Staryi Castle?

I quite enjoyed this book. Set in 1830s Russia, it’s a wonderful mix of fantasy, folklore and adventure. The whole book was compelling from beginning to end, and I’m curious to see where the rest of the series goes.

The “silent deal” referenced in the title was very  interested, and the way that it was revealed throughout the book was done very well – just when you thought you had a handle on it, a new piece of information was revealed.

The main characters are all quite likeable, but it’s the Romani that really stand out for me, despite not getting much attention until late in the book. I’m hoping there will be a lot more of them in the future.

I really liked the way the folklore and the fantasy elements were woven in, there was nothing overly unrealistic about any of it, and that’s a pleasant change. I was really looking forward to seeing how the cards were involved in the story, as they played such a key part in setting the mystery up. The explanation for their existence was quite disappointing however – I expected them to play a much larger part considering some of the situations described.

I really liked the writing style throughout – it’s wonderfully paced and written in such a way to appeal to a broad range of ages. I’m very interested to see how book two plays out, and where it will all go from here.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Nov 16, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE GLASS MAGICIAN by Charlie Holmberg

The Glass Magician is the second book in Charlie Holmberg’s Paper Magician Trilogy. (You can read my review of book one here.) It continues following Ceony as she grows as a magician and a person, and continues to dodge the villains introduced in book one.

This is shaping up to be a series more for those interested in teen romance than steampunk or alternative histories, and as a romance novel it does work well. I’m just not a fan of girls mooning over boys.

Much as with the first book, I enjoyed the writing style, but again the lack of world building is disappointing, not to mention the overwhelming amount of time spent either unnecessarily explaining important (and previously detailed) concepts from book one, and on Ceony’s internal agony over her feelings for Emery.

There was an interesting twist added with how magicians bond with their medium, and I’m very curious to see where book three takes that concept.

Again, I do recommend the series, but it won’t be making my top 10 list for this year.

Purchase: Book Depository

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Nov 12, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments


The Icicle Illuminarium is the sequel to The Kensington Reptilarium (not required reading to pick up this book), and follows 4 Aussie children as they go on an adventure to find their mother.

I did enjoy the story, it was full of humour and daring, and did make me laugh in quite a few places. That said, it was a very exhausting read. The writing style is perfect for the story and the characters, and would appeal to the children it’s aimed at, but it’s such a high energy read that it took me quite a while to get through considering that it’s a bit over 300 pages.

Some of the characters get a bit same-same, there are quite a few parts where it feels like they’re all carbon copies of each other, just with different names. I don’t see this as being much of an issue to the target audience though, they’ll be too engrossed in the antics that the children get up to.

I’d definitely recommend this for children under the age of 12, and for those at the younger end of the spectrum, this would be a fun read for them to test their skills with.

Purchase: Book Depository | BookWorld

Nov 5, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE PAPER MAGICIAN by Charlie Holmberg

The Paper Magician is about magic, mystery and a large dose of romance. Ceony Twill has just graduated from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined and is about to start her apprenticeship as a Paper Magician. She’s not very happy about this – she’s always wanted to work with metal, not paper. But as she learns more about Folding, she realises it’s not as bad as she originally thought. While she’s coming to this conclusion though, there’s the small matter of the Excisioner (flesh magician) trying to kill her master.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked how magic was portrayed – that spells are cast via a physical medium (paper, metal, plastic, glass, etc) and once you have bonded to a medium, that is the only way you can ever work magic. Getting to know Ceony was a lot harder than getting to know her master, Emery Thane – we don’t spend a large portion of the book wandering through her heart the way we do his – but for the most part, I enjoyed Ceony. There’s a light, almost fairy tale quality to the story and the writing that made it seem very fresh and a bit innocent.

What I didn’t like though, was the completely avoidable romantic side-effect from wandering through Thane’s heart. One minute, Ceony  is mourning the loss of the apprenticeship she was expecting, and the next, she’s in love.  From that point on, there’s a bit too much time spent existing only for Thane than I’m comfortable with. I would have liked to see more information provided about the magical world – rules, regulations, society. The book sticks to the main plot so carefully that the world it exists in is barely fleshed out, relying on the reader’s knowledge of Victorian England to provide context – and even then, there are enough items mentioned (plastic, emphasis on wearing makeup, some of the foods) that just don’t fit with that era.

This book is definitely worth a read, I’m just hoping that the rest of the series fleshes out things a bit more, and that it works much better as a series than as individual books.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon